All-Time NBA Starting Five: Shaquille O’Neal Starts at Center

When Shaquille O'Neal was at his absolute best, he was the absolute best.

The best center ever. Possibly the best NBA player ever.

So if I'm creating an all-time NBA starting five, and I'm getting each player in his peak form, I'm penciling Shaq in as my center. And my team, which I will name in the following slides, will beat yours.

Shaquille O'Neal. Michael Jordan. I just gave you the list of players to ever win three consecutive NBA Finals MVP awards. That is the complete list.

It's also the complete list of names that have any business in the discussion of which players, at their peak, belong in the "Most Dominant Ever" discussion that Shaq himself started.

But that phrase—"at his peak"—will always be a necessary qualifier when assessing O'Neal's legacy, because his peak was much shorter than that of other hoops legends.

In fact, according to this diehard LA Lakers fan and longtime drinker of the Shaqool-Aid, Shaquille O'Neal's prime lasted only three or four seasons, with a single year as the clear pinnacle: the 1999-2000 season in which he captured his first career NBA championship.

That year, a lean, mean, hungry Diesel threw up 30-20 games with absurd regularity. Defensively, he blocked shots, but not a ton of them, because most players didn't bother challenging the scowling, howling monster who lorded over the paint with pure physical power and a seething desire to not only defeat, but humiliate, anyone who crossed him.

That year, after snatching one of his 13.6 rebounds per game, Shaq was equally likely to throw a perfect outlet pass or put the ball on the floor and run the fast break himself, with all the speed and ball-handling ability of a point guard.

He passed out of double-teams with precision, often pointing and shouting for approval from a courtside Magic Johnson after particularly sweet no-lookers.

Unfortunately, as Mark Heisle...

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